Current Exhibition

Food & Wine & Good Design:

The California Fine Printers’ Legacy

September 15-December 8, 2014

Exhibition Opening: Monday, September 15, 5-7 pm

Curated by Randall Tarpey Schwed

Don’t miss our symposium,


The notion of finely printed cookbooks could be considered a bit absurd. Such objects are by their very nature “practical,” destined to be handled by buttery fingers, splayed open for easy access to their recipes, and stained with the fragrant splatters of the saucepan and soup pot. Yet a number of California’s fine printers applied the same level of craftsmanship to those efforts as they did to their commissions for more “refined” genres like literature and art.

Food & Wine & Good Design: The California Fine Printers’ Legacy showcases over one hundred examples of fine printing, outstanding design, or accomplished illustration in books, broadsides, culinary ephemera, and gastronomic literature. The one element that all the items displayed have in common is that they were created by California craftsmen and published or printed in California. Many of these works demonstrate the design and aesthetic characteristics of the periods in which they were created: objects printed before 1920 often had an Arts & Crafts or art nouveau quality; books issued in the 1930s and 1940s utilized art deco motifs and skinny, streamlined sans-serifs types; and many volumes published in the 1960s and 1970s made free use of color in a nod to the psychedelic era.

The items showcased can also inform our understanding of California’s substantial contributions to the culture of food and wine. Ultimately, this embrace of all things gastronomical manifested itself not just in cookery books, wine labels, menus and other practical objects, but also in volumes of epicurean philosophy and literature, or so-called “food writing.” This evolution is a reflection of a broader celebration that has moved beyond the kitchen and dining room and into the libraries and the souls of those who celebrate not just good food and fine wine, but also the pleasures of great literature, and the wonder of a finely crafted book.

Randall Tarpey-Schwed is a bibliophile, collector, and independent researcher with a special interest in gastronomy. He curated the Book Club of California’s 2008 exhibition A Delicious Obsession and is the co-author of M.F.K. Fisher: An Annotated Bibliography.

Free & open to the public during Book Club of California hours: Monday, 10 am-7 pm; Tuesday-Friday, 10 am-5 pm. Call (415) 781-7532 for more information.


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